Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another Chance to Get Service

Posted By on 01.20.10 at 04:58 PM

The Service (now)
  • The Service (now)
Pravda Records celebrates its 25th anniversary with a show Friday night at the Abbey Pub, including a reunion by the label’s most unfairly overlooked band, the Service. Though Pravda has released albums by groups like Black Smokers, the Diplomats of Solid Sound, and Cheer-Accident in recent years, it currently maintains a pretty low profile—its heyday was back in the late 80s and early 90s, when Pravda also ran a record shop of the same name on the ground floor of Metro.

The label, owned by Kenn Goodman (the Service, the New Duncan Imperials), was a bit erratic for my tastes, but I certainly enjoyed Pravda releases by the Hollowmen, Green, Wake Ooloo, and the C*nts. The other day I dug up a couple of albums I have by the Service—who formed in 1982 as students at NIU in DeKalb and broke up in 1990—and more than two decades later they still sound terrific. Singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter Rick Mosher, keyboardist and singer Goodman, and drummer John Smith would later find greater success with the jokey and relatively rock-oriented New Duncan Imperials, but the Service delivered hard-edged pop rock that got better with each record. Mosher and Goodman were the core of the band, but most of their releases also featured Dave Briggs as front man and Gary Schepers—perhaps best known as one of Chicago’s tallest sound men—on bass (and occasional tuba).

The Service (then)
  • The Service (then)
The combo’s finest albums are George’s Duty-Free Goulash (1987), the last with Briggs, and In Nonsense Is Strength (1988), where Mosher more than ably took over as main singer. The Service dished out muscular, hooky melodies with a raucous sound that split the difference between bar-band fundamentals and rootsy heartland sensibilities. They were the epitome of the midwestern rock of the time—unfussy, exuberant, and with a certain elegance in its simplicity.

The band never made a big splash, in part because they were such a steady presence in Chicago that they got taken for granted here. But I still have an awful lot of underground rock records from the mid- to late 80s, before media and marketing geniuses cooked up terms like "alt-rock" and "indie rock," and few of them have aged as well as my Service albums. They’ll probably never get their due, but they more than deserve a second look—or, from everybody who was either too young or just not paying attention back in the day, a first look.

The Service headline Friday night, sharing the bill with fellow Pravda artists the Slugs and Boom Hank.

Today’s playlist:

Alasdair Roberts, The Wyrd Meme (Drag City)
Clipse, Til the Casket Drops (Columbia)
Keith Jarrett, Treasure Island (Impulse)
Sunn 0))), Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)
Jesse Stacken & Kirk Knuffke, Mockingbird (Steeplechase)

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